True Story…

The year was 1984 and I was 11.  I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the day my father told me one of the most romantic and amazing stories ever.  It was springtime - the trees were starting to bloom, the birds were chirping and the sun was warming my face on this cool morning in Connecticut.  It was the first true glimpse that winter was over and warmer days were ahead.  My father and I were working in our family vegetable garden.  It was the time of the year we prepared the soil for the season and planted lettuce and green beans, two crops you cold plant early in the planting season.  It was times like this where my father would tell me stories of his childhood and other stuff fathers should share with their son.  However, this day my father told me one of the most romantic stories and a story I repeat often and one I will never forget.  It is how my grandparents, who were immigrants from Norway, met.

You see it was almost like a Hollywood movie script - two young adults who were leaving their family and everything behind for a new life in America.  My grandparents Johanna and Hans met on their ship traveling to America, my grandmother traveling alone and my grandfather traveling with a few friends.  Following this casual and brief encounter on their travels to America they did not see each other again for several years in ……   

Who doesn’t like a good story?  I know I do, and in my opinion, some of the greatest storytellers of all time are individuals like James Earl Jones, Charles Osgood and, of course, the venerable Paul Harvey.  Each of these individuals has a tonality that is pleasing to the ear and certain inflections to their voice that breathe credibility to what they are saying and make me want to hear more.

In fact, storytelling has been around since the days of cave drawings, and the basic principals have not changed that much.  As marketers, storytelling is a significant part of what we do and when done correctly, the results are amazing.  The reason stories work is because they are memorable, they have an extended shelf life, and most importantly, they inspire the target audience to take action – purchase a product, make a donation or inquire about a service. 

As you develop your next story for your customers and prospects make sure you remember the following tips:

  1. Credibility – The individual telling your story needs to be credible and have a connection with the reader.   
  2. Photo & Video – As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and when you are telling a story, the use of photos and videos can really help engage your audience.
  3. Infographics – Using simple clean infographics, you can help accentuate the main points of your story – be it market presence, need gap or how your product or service can meet a need.
  4. Integrated Delivery – When you develop your story you need to make sure that it is all encompassing, and not just residing in the direct mail piece. Make sure other potential touch points leverage the same story - like landing pages, telemarketing calls, emails and text messages.  
  5. Relevancy - Leverage what you know about your customers and prospects to make your story relevant.  It still amazes me in the age of BIG DATA and HYPER-PERSONALIZATIONhow often marketers do not segment and provide relevant experiences. 

Circling back to my grandparents… It truly was like a Hollywood movie script and here is the best part… it was about 5 years later and my grandfather was just getting off work.  He worked in a watch factory in downtown Chicago at the time.  On his walk home from work, he recognized this beautiful young woman on the street corner waiting for a taxi cab.  He had not seen her since their voyage to America, and my as my father tells it, he was searching for her almost nonstop since they parted ways - hoping they would meet up again. And as fate would have it, the beautiful woman waiting for the taxi was Johanna, my grandmother.  He walked up to her and introduced himself and offered to ride the cab with her.  Next thing you know, they were married, had 2 boys living in Delevan, Wisconsin and they remained married for over 55 years, living the American dream, before my grandfather died in 1986.  Years later, I validated this story with my grandmother as she was nearing the end of her life.  She was in her 90s and I was in my 20s and the story was as romantic, if not more, hearing it directly from her.

As you go about your life over the next few days, identify examples of organizations and companies who have done an excellent job in telling a story and share them here.  Because as I said, I love a great story!  Thanks for reading.